Pain medications (analgesics) like ibuprofen and paracetamol are for use with occasional pain and are readily available in chemists and supermarkets. They can be very effective in treating mild to moderate pain such as headaches or muscle pain. For muscle and joint pain you can also get pain-relieving gels and sprays which are applied to the skin of the affected area.
If you need a stronger medication your pharmacist may be able to give you some different pain medications over the counter, such as codeine and paracetemol tablets. The pharmacist will ask you some questions about your condition and any other medications you are taking to make sure these medicines are right for you.
If you keep taking over-the-counter pain medication for any length of time then talk to your doctor if you have not already done so.
Your GP or hospital doctor is also able to prescribe a wide range of pain medications. When you go to discuss your pain with your doctor, it's useful to describe not only the location and severity of the pain, but also how it's affecting your life - for example lack of sleep, changes in mood, or being unable to bend or stretch to do everyday household tasks. This will help the doctor to understand how best to treat your pain. He may offer tablets, injections, or suggest other therapies or procedures.
When taking any medications for pain, make sure you follow the instructions carefully. Don't be tempted to 'double up' dosages or take more than one sort of pain killer at a time unless recommended by your doctor, as this can damage your health. If you do take too much of a painkiller, seek medical help.
If you have trouble taking your medication, or would like to find out more about what you are taking, then take a look at our Taking your medication page.